People who suffer from severe mental illness (SMI) are one of society’s most stigmatized groups. Clinicians, policymakers, and persons with SMI themselves all value interventions that attempt to promote their social and economic involvement. For a study, researchers used narrative synthesis to compile their findings from a comprehensive assessment of the literature on social treatments for persons with SMI published in 2016. They discovered a substantial quantity of research on the topic, with 72 publications meeting the inclusion criteria. Over half of the studies looked at the impact of treatments offered at the service level (assisted housing, education, or employment), while the rest focused on individuals (community engagement, family interventions, peer-led/supported interventions, and social skills training). 

They found strong evidence for the Housing First model of supported housing, the Individual Placement and Support model of supported employment, and family psychoeducation, with the caveat that a variety of models were still needed to meet individuals’ diverse housing, employment, and family-related needs. The findings also revealed the significance of contextual elements and the necessity for local modifications when “importing” treatments from other places. Despite improvements in cognitive function, they observed that augmentation tactics to improve the efficiency of social treatments (especially supported employment and social skills training) by treating cognitive deficits did not result in transferrable “real life” abilities. They also discovered a growing body of data for peer-led/supported therapies, recovery colleges, and other community-building initiatives. The researchers came to the conclusion that while social treatments offered significant advantages, they are also among the most difficult in the mental health sector, requiring multi-level stakeholder engagement and investment to be successful.